Refractive Lens Exchange
If you are not a candidate for LASIK, PRK or CK a procedure called Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) may be for you. This procedure eliminates any need for cataract surgery in the future. It is designed to reduce or eliminate your dependency on glasses or contact lenses. LASIK and other laser treatments reshape the cornea to reduce the need for glasses, in contrast Refractive Lens Exchange is a procedure that replaces the eye’s natural lens with an artificial lens (intraocular lens) that allows for a better focus of light on the retina. It is the exact same procedure as cataract surgery, which is one of the safest, most effective procedures available.
For people with presbyopia, Refractive Lens Exchange may be an excellent option as it can help patients read up close without the need for monovision, where one eye is made to see far and one eye to see close.
There are many options for intraocular lenses, please ask your California Retina physician which lens would be the best option for your visual needs.
Benefits of a Refractive Lens Exchange
A refractive lens exchange is an alternative to those patients with corneas that are too thin for a laser vision correction procedure.
Some of the advantages of RLE include the following:
- The rapid recovery of vision
- The cornea remains untouched
- There is no need for cataract surgery in the future
- Vision is now stable
- Correction of presbyopia at the same time
- The IOL can be exchanged
The Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure
The refractive lens exchange procedure is performed on an outpatient basis using the same techniques as those for cataract surgery.
A topical or local anesthesia is applied to the eyes to minimize discomfort during the procedure. Through a tiny incision of 3mm or less, the natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an IOL that is inserted through the same opening. Once inserted, the lens is unfolded and moved into its permanent position in the eye. There are no stitches needed as the incision will be able to seal on its own. The refractive lens exchange procedure takes just 20 minutes to perform and offers patients significant and immediate results.
After the Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure
After a refractive lens exchange, patients can return home the same day, and can return to work and other regular activities after a day or two. Many report immediate improvements to their vision, and vision will continue to improve as the brain adapts to the new lens. Once vision has stabilized, it will likely stay the same over time as the lenses correct vision and prevent the patient from developing cataracts in the future. The second eye is usually treated a few weeks after the first procedure.
The extent of the results of the RLE will depend upon the patients eyes, lifestyle and the IOL selected for the procedure. Many patients are able to eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts after this procedure, while others may still need glasses for driving or reading.
Risks and Complications of a Refractive Lens Exchange
All surgery carries some degree of risk. These concerns should be discussed, in detail, with the surgeon.
The risks and complications of a refractive lens exchange are the same as those of cataract surgery and may include:
- Retinal detachment
- Increased pressure in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Dry eyes
- Distortion in vision